April is IEP month

boy-reading-in-schoolIf you have a child receiving special education services, April is a very busy month. It is the time when meetings usually take place to discuss your child’s progress and create a plan for next year.  It means that your child’s Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (also known as PLAAFP) will be determined. This is your starting point. It provides baseline information about your child’s knowledge and skills. Then, the IEP team (of which parents are members) should work together to create a new IEP with updated goals and objectives.

How to develop a good IEP

Developing an IEP takes time and dedication. It also takes a team. You, your child’s teachers and any professional that works with your child (such as a speech therapist, counselor, etc.) should have input into creating the IEP.  NICHCY has a very clear factsheet that provides all of the details on how to create a good IEP.

In addition, my other favorite website, Wrightslaw, has tons of info for parents to help you through the IEP process. In particular, I like their page on “SMART” IEPs . They say that IEPs should be:

S    Specific (specific goals and objectives describe behaviors and skills that will be taught)

M  Measurable (measurable goals and objectives to accurately assess your child’s progress)

A   Use Action Words (words that will actively describe the goal “Crissy will be able to…”)

R   Realistic and relevant (goals and objectives that address your child’s unique needs as a result of her disability)

T   Time-limited (progress is monitored in a defined way, at defined intervals)

Please read more from Wrightslaw about creating SMART IEP goals.   I also like their page on IEP FAQs. Be sure to scroll down the page for their IEP Tactics and Strategies section.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to familiarize yourself with the information on these two websites. Knowledge is powerful and will help you to be a much better advocate for your child.

Negotiating tips

Lastly, when you are in the IEP meeting, try to remain cool and calm. This is not always an easy thing to do, but when you get all flustered, upset or annoyed, you can’t negotiate in a rational way. And, it puts the other team members on the defensive which may halt your progress. Try to stick to the facts (your child’s disabling condition and his present level of functioning as based on current evaluations), and then focus on the goals and objectives that you believe are important and within reach.

If you have been through this process and wish to offer suggestions, we’d love to hear from you.

Have questions?  Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started on January 16, 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Feel free to go back to look at prior posts as the series builds on itself. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

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